Designers and Garden Clubs Deck the Mansion Halls

Guided Tours Offered through December 30

Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard at night
Vanderbilt Museum photo

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s holiday centerpiece is the mansion of William and Rosamond Vanderbilt, decorated each year by local designers and garden clubs. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors can see the captivating results from now through December 30. The decorators create magic in the rooms with lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands, toys, and elegantly wrapped faux gifts.

Guides take guests on tours of the Mansion on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Wednesday-Sunday, December 26 – 30 during school vacation) at regular intervals between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Special Twilight Tours will be given on Thursday and Friday, December 27 and 28, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Purchase tickets on-line here. Admission: $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors (student ID, or age 62 plus) and $5 for children 12 and under.

Designers Mary Schlotter and Krishtia McCord put finishing touches on their botanical dress
Vanderbilt Museum photo

This event is a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night. Hot chocolate and cookies are included.

This year’s Mansion decorators:

  • Dix Hills Garden Club – Dining Room
  • Honey Hills Garden Club – Sonja Henie Guest Room
  • Nathan Hale Garden Club – Organ Room and Yellow Guest Room
  • Asharoken Garden Club – Portuguese Sitting Room
  • Three Village Garden Club – William Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
  • Harbor Homestead & Co. – Rosamond Vanderbilt’s Bedroom and Dressing Room –
  • Centerport Garden Club – Library
  • Hydrangea Home of Northport – Holiday floral centerpiece
  • Volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County
  • Museum guide Ellen Mason contributed her family’s vintage electric train set and accompanying buildings for display around the base of the tree in the Library.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, and her staff decorated the Windsor Guest Room, Lancaster Room, Breakfast Nook, and Northport Porch.

Vanderbilt Mansion Library
Vanderbilt Museum photo

“Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 seasons,” Gress, said. “We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.”

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said “We’re grateful to these generous volunteers who give their time and talent to create an atmosphere of enchanting holiday grandeur and sophisticated living.”

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord – who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. – created a spectacular botanical dress that is displayed in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom.

“The challenge was to use natural materials for the skirt,” McCord said. “We used dried birch-branch tips and wove in strings of tiny clear lights.”

“We wanted to give the dress some sparkle,” Schlotter added. “So, we asked friends and family to share their grandmothers’ and mothers’ clip-on earrings and brooches and added them to the skirt. We made a botanical necklace using lamb’s ear leaves and hydrangea petals and accented it with pearls.”

They fashioned a long flowing sash with wide, white birch bark-print ribbon. They combined the same ribbon design with greenery and small lights to decorate the nearby mantelpiece.

The designers made their first botanical dress for the Vanderbilt two years ago: “We like to use materials that will decompose and not harm the earth. We never use floral foam because it takes many years to break down. Instead, like many floral designers, we use chicken wire and thin tape.”

Lorri Toth, who made the velvet top of Schlotter and McCord’s first botanical dress, created the dove-gray velvet top for the new dress. Toth, who worked in New York City fashion houses, now has her own design business, Couture Creations, in Huntington Village, and makes lots of wedding dresses, Schlotter said.

The two designers used antique chandelier crystals and other glass objects to decorate the fireplace mantel in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s stunning mirrored dressing room, where their original botanical dress is displayed.

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